The Balkans Today: 28th November - 2nd December 2016
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The Balkans Today

Up to the minute news and updates from the Balkan region

The Balkans Today: 28th November - 2nd December 2016

Our team brings you live updates of the most important events and developments in the Balkans as they happen.

    Top stories from the Balkans this Monday:
    • The trial of seven employees of Macedonia’s secret police charged with deliberately destroying documents to hide their involvement in large scale illegal wiretapping begins at a court in Skopje on Monday. Read more.
    • Critics of the ruling party in Republika Srpska fear the President’s threat to publish a blacklist of its enemies marks the start of a witch hunt. Read more.
    • The dispute over the Trepca complex is becoming one of the biggest stumbling blocks in Kosovo-Serbia relations - but the issue has been smouldering for decades. Read more.
    Online magazine VICE’s Balkans service has released a new short film, ‘DJ Istorija Beograda’, documenting the rise of club culture in the Serbian capital.

    The 35-minute documentary features archive images and interviews with some of the DJs who helped turn the city into “one of the best places for nightlife and electronic music in this part of Europe”.
    The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina will probably not consider two appeals made by deputies of the National Assembly of Republika Srpska until next year, local media have reported.
    Members of RS's National Assembly had lodged appeals for a review of the constitutionality of all laws and other decisions passed by the Parliament of the Federation entity of Bosnia since the elections of 2014, as well as on the constitutionality of the Federation's public holiday of March 1.
    The appeals were made after the Constitutional Court ruled as unconstitutional RS's bid to celebrate a public holiday on January 9, stating that such a holiday excluded non-Serbs living in the entity.
    Russia has cancelled its participation in the Croatia-Russia economic forum that should have taken place in the Balkan country in November, Russia's ambassador to Croatia, Anvar Azimov, said on Monday while hosting the 'Tema dana' (‘Topic of the Day’) morning programme on the regional N1 television network. 

    Azimov explained that Russian entrepreneurs pulled out of the forum because they do not support the EU-imposed sanctions on goods from Russia, which Croatia has enforced as well.
    Gender equality is one of the founding principles of the European Union, and the EU is strongly committed to ending gender-based violence, said the EU Ambassador to Montenegro Aivo Orav on Monday, at the event marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

    Orav said that the European Commission's latest Report on Montenegro indicates that gender-based violence continues to be a concern although some positive steps were taken such as setting up of a unified database of cases of violence to address the problem of statistical reliability and ensure better and more coordinated help for victims, and adoption of clear protocols for multidisciplinary teams set up to respond to domestic violence. 
    The trial of seven employees of Macedonia’s secret police charged with deliberately destroying documents to hide their involvement in large-scale illegal wiretapping was postponed for January 17, 2017, after a preparatory court session today.
    The court postponed the start of the trial because it demanded that the Special Prosecution procures a permit from the secret police for use of classified evidence.
    Turkish General Consulate in the Kosovo town of Prizren has been attacked on Monday with what is believed to be a Molotov cocktail. The building located near the historical center of Prizren was slightly damaged and according to local media no injuries have been reported.

    Prizren Chief Prosecutor, Syle Hoxha, has confirmed the incident to Gazeta Express stating that it occurred on Monday at around 04:00 am.
    Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has insisted that his presence at Sunday's election rally for Macedonia's ruling VMRO DPMNE party should not be seen as controversial.
    Commenting on his appearance at the event in Macedonia's capital, Skopje, Kurz explained to media that he "attended the rally in my capacity as member of the European People's party," adding that that is different from his official meetings with Macedonian dignitaries today, which he will be attending as Austrian Foreign Minister.
    Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz. Photo: MIA
    Nearly 19 per cent more foreign tourists visited Bulgaria in October 2016 as compared to the same period last year, the latest data of the National Statistics Institute, or NSI, shows. 

    The largest group, made up 20 per cent of all the foreigners who visited Bulgaria last month, or approximately 500,000 people, are Macedonian citizens.

    Among the non-Balkan countries, Bulgaria has registers a 64 per cent growth in tourists coming from Germany, with 17, 600 Germans visiting it in October.

    Tourists in Bulgaria. Photo: Sasha/Flickr 

    Bosnia's state prosecution has continued to hear witnesses and suspects in the case to investigate the Bosnian entity Republika Srpska's October referendum, which had been banned by the Constitutional Court and was led by RS president Milorad Dodik.
    Adam Sukalo, founder of the Party of Progressive Srpska and member in RS's National Assembly, said after his hearing today that although he did not support Dodik, he thought the prosecution process was a "theatre of the absurd".
    Sukalo said he did not believe Dodik could be held personally responsible for the plebiscite.

    Prime Minister Duško Marković with ministers of the 41th Government of #Montenegro ????????

    Romania’s Constitutional Court suspended its deliberations on a gay marriage case involving a Romanian-American couple and announced it requested a point of view from the European Court of Justice on defining the concept of “spouses”, the court’s president, Valer Dorneanu, announced on Tuesday.

    The case has been on the Constitutional Court agenda for five months and this is the third time the judges have debated the matter.

    The case reached Romania’s highest court after the couple, who wed in Brussels in 2010, filed a complaint that questions the constitutionality of a provision in the civil code which forbids same sex marriage and the recognition of same sex marriage performed abroad.
    Top stories from the Balkans this Tuesday:
    • If no new cabinet can be agreed after the last government resigned, President Rosen Plevneliev will have to appoint an interim administration to govern the country until elections in the spring. Read more.
    • Several Montenegrin towns and the capital Podgorica have been hit by a series of bomb blasts in recent months, but police have caught none of the perpetrators so far. Read more.
    • The bitter struggle between Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats to control the southern town of Stolac holds echoes of the worsening relations between the two communities and their leaders in the country at large. Read more.
    Kosovo and Serbia commenced another two-day round of EU-mediated talks on Tuesday in Brussels, where they will report on their progress towards implementing the agreement on the judiciary, signed in 2015, and the recent telecoms deal between them.

    Kosovo’s Minister for Dialogue Edita Tahiri, told BIRN that the talks will be about the integration process of judges and prosecutors into Kosovo’s judicial system and the final preparations for establishing a basic court and a public prosecutor's office in the Mitrovica region in Kosovo’s north.

    Kosovo’s Minister for Dialogue Edita Tahiri |  Photo: BIRN      

    The Turkish embassy in Zagreb told BIRN on Tuesday that it has sent a letter to Croatian weekly Nacional denying the media outlet’s claims that its former ambassador in Croatia, Ahmet Tuta, and his wife Mina Tuta, who ran the Yunus Emre Institut in Zagreb promoting Turkish language, culture and art, were swiftly removed from their positions for their alleged affiliation with the exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who authorities in Ankara blame for fomenting the failed coup in July. 

    The embassy said that the article "clearly contains disinformation and represents a misleading picture" regarding the measures that followed the coup.

    It also stated that Ahmet Tuta was recalled to Ankara on August 9, and arrived there with his wife by August 27.

    However, the embassy admitted that Ahmet Tuta was discharged from the public service on October 29, without stating a reason for it.

    The letter has not been published in today’s issue of Nacional.
    Kosovo police arrested a sixth person on Tuesday on suspicion of throwing Molotov cocktails at the Turkish consulate building in the southern Kosovo city of Prizren.

    The other five persons were arrested on Monday. 

    The latest suspect was taken in by police after he posted a video on social networks that showed another person removing the Turkish flag from a pole where it had been placed on Albania’s Independence Day, marked on November 28.

    The man will be held in custody for 48 hours, while the five other suspects will attend court hearings today.

    Albanian and Turkish flag in Kosovo city Prizren | Photo: BIRN    

    A journalist has been attacked outside the Old Government building in the city of Banja Luka, the administrative centre of Bosnia's Serb entity.
    Boris Nogo, a journalist for the press agency SRNA, said a security guard who refused to identify himself had verbally abused him and then physically removed him from the building.
    Nogo was assaulted before the joint session of the Council of Peoples and RS Parliament, at which the recently adopted law on Republika Srpska's disputed holiday was being considered.
    The panel of judges at the county court in the eastern Croatian city of Osijek confirmed the indictment issued by the state attorney’s office against Zdravko Mamic, former executive president of Dinamo Zagreb football club, his brother Zoran Mamic, the former manager of the club, Damir Vrbanovic, its former director, and Milan Pernar, an official from the state tax administration.

    The four men are accused of fiscal embezzlement and costing the club budget 15.3 million euros, as well as damaging the state budget by 1.5 million euros.​
    Zdravko Mamic. Photo: Beta
    Bulgaria’s outing Prime Minister, Boyko Borissov, confirmed that his party GERB would not accept a mandate to form a second government within the current 43rd National Assembly after a Consultative Council on National Security meeting on Tuesday that was called by President Rosen Plevneliev.

    Borissov, however, did not discount the option of GERB supporting a cabinet formed by his former government partners - the right-wing Reformist Bloc or the far-right Patriotic Front coalition.

    GERB and the second biggest party in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, or BSP, have already refused to set up a new cabinet and would rather go to preliminary elections.

    The only party that has openly declared its willingness to form a new cabinet is the Patriotic Front, which has gained popularity recently with its anti-immigrant rhetoric.

    Boyko Borissov. Photo: GERB 

    Civil society activists in Kosovo delivered a petition to the Kosovo Assembly today, requesting an independent investigation into the death in prison of Vetevendosje activist Astrit Dehari, as well as for the resignations of the officials responsible and for an extraordinary parliamentary session to be held on the case. 

    Besa Luzha, a civil society activist, said that the extraordinary parliamentary session should be held on December 2.

    Luzha also stated that over 23,000 people had signed the petition in five days, well over the threshold of 10,000 required for an extraordinary parliamentary session, or any other legislative initiative, to be held according to Kosovo’s Constitution.

       Signatures of citizens delivered by civil society to the Kosovo Assembly           Photo: BIRN 

    A 73-year-old male in Croatia has been detained and questioned by the investigative judge of the Zagreb County Court due to a threatening SMS he allegedly sent to Sasa Lekovic, the president of the Croatian Journalists' Association, HND, the court reported on Tuesday.

    The court confirmed that the person is being held in detention due to the risk of him repeating the act.
    Top stories from the Balkans this Wednesday:
    • Croatian women struggle to exercise their right to abortion, driven into the shadows and illegality by the rise of a hostile conservatism. Read more.
    • Montenegro’s government will give a mainly Albanian-populated area long-sought municipal status among other concessions after ethnic Albanian politicians helped the ruling party gain a parliamentary majority. Read more.
    • Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz’s endorsement of the ruling VMRO DPMNE party before the upcoming elections horrified freedom-seeking Macedonians and contradicted the EU’s democratic values. Read the full comment.
    Responding to statements US President-elect Donald Trump made during his election campaign that the US may not come to NATO’s aid if its member states do not have a defence budget exceeding 2 per cent GDP, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic explained that Croatia’s recent war history has an impact on the amount the country can set aside for defence.

    In an interview for US media outlet Defense News, she said the fact that Croatia has had to rebuild itself after emerging from 1990s war should be taken into account, but added that Croatia "always stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States".

    Addressing the deployment of NATO troops along the alliance’s eastern flank, Grabar Kitarovic told Defense News that this move is an answer to the atmosphere created by Russian President Vladimir Putin, but stated that Russia needs to be reassured that these troops are used only for the defence of NATO's territory.

    The Croatian President also referred to Bosnia and Herzegovina, to which she described as "not fully politically emancipated”.

    She emphasised that further steps towards independence by the Serb-led Bosnian entity of Republika Srpska could lead to conflict with Bosnia’s other entity, the Federation, and that it could be expected that Russia would assist Repubika Srpska in that scenario.
    Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Miljenko KLEPAC/DS
    Italian police have arrested 14 Albanians allegedly responsible for the creation of a prostitution ring operating in Italy and the Netherlands, Italian media announced on Wednesday. 
    According to media reports, Italian police opened an investigation into the group in March 2015 in which they discovered that the group was allegedly exploiting women from Moldova, Romania and the Czech Republic. Media also claimed that the money they made was used to purchase drugs that were then sold in the Netherlands.
    by fatjona.mejdini via null edited by emma.krstic 11/30/2016 10:25:58 AM
    Croatian GDP in the third quarter of the year has grown by 2.9 per cent, while it has grown by 2.7 per cent in relation to the same period in 2015, the Croatian Bureau of Statistics reported on Wednesday.
    The closing arguments in the trial of Ratko Mladic are set to begin on December 5. The prosecution will present its closing arguments from 5 to 7 December, and the defense from 9 to 13 December, reports news agency FENA.
    Mladic, former Bosnian Serb military chief, is on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, charged with terrorizing the population of Sarajevo by conducting artillery and sniper attacks from 1992 to 1995. 
    Mladic is also charged with genocide in Srebrenica and with persecution of Bosniaks and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, which reached the scale of genocide in six municipalities.
    Russia is open for constructive dialogue with Montenegro and expects the Balkan nation to take practical steps to remove the preconditions regarding the built-up negativity in bilateral relations, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated at a briefing on Wednesday.

    Tass agency cited Zakharova as saying that Russia has noted a remark made by Montenegro’s new Prime Minister Dusko Markovic about the need to overcome "elements of misunderstanding with (Montenegro’s) historical ally Russia."

    "Our country is open for a constructive dialogue with all nations, including Montenegro," Zakharova said.
    Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic will meet leaders of the pro-Serb opposition in Montenegro on December 7, daily Dan reported on Wednesday saying the date was confirmed with the Serbian PM's cabinet in Belgrade.

    The leaders of the pro-Serbian opposition and Serb organisations demanded an urgent meeting with Vucic in Belgrade three weeks ago about what they said was the “intolerable situation” facing the Serb community in Montenegro, but Vucic said he had not met them yet because he was too busy.

    Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic. Photo:

    Representatives of Albanian recycling companies protested today in front of Albania’s parliament building in the capital Tirana, asking for the law on waste not to be repassed.

    In September 2015, only 63 of the 98 MPs who were present in the chamber backed the draft law when it was initially passed. However, with the president having declined to then sign the draft into law and instead returned it to parliament, at least 71 of the total of 140 MPs in parliament need to vote in its favour for it to be repassed.
    Recycling representatives protesting in Tirana. Photo: Facebook

    The Bosnian state court said on Wednesday that nine Bosnian Croats, all former Croatian Defence Council, HVO fighters suspected of committing war crimes in the northern town of Orasje in 1992 and 1993, have been released after spending a month in remand prison.

    Ten suspects were arrested on October 31, but one had already been released for health reasons.

    The arrests angered Bosnian Croats and officials in Zagreb, who insisted that the HVO only fought a defensive struggle during the Bosnian war.
    Milorad Dodik, the President of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska, stated on Wednesday that he is proud of his entity’s relations with Russia, which, according to him, do not revolve around military or intelligence issues, but tourism and economy.

    Dodik claimed that the West's zeal over Russia and its President Vladimir Putin is a part of their political strategy.

    His statements came in response to an interview given by Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic for the US media outlet Defense News, in which she said that Russia could have a role in helping Republika Srpska in any potential conflict with Bosnia’s larger Federation entity in the event that RS would try to attain independence.
    Hungary’s Prime Minister, Victor Orban, awarded his outgoing Bulgarian counterpart, Boyko Borissov, with the state’s highest order for his merits in protecting the security of Hungary and Europe. 
    Borissov, who travelled to Budapest to receive the Grand Cross for Civil Merit, said that Europe needs more leaders like Orban, “leaders with memory, sober assessment and assessment of the dangers which are coming”.
    Following their meeting, Borissov wrote on Facebook that “this is an award for the efforts of all Bulgarian border officers, policemen, soldiers and everyone who watches night and day over the security not only of Bulgaria, but of Europe.”
    Borissov receiving the award from Orban. Photo: Bulgarian government press service 

    by maria.cheresheva via null edited by emma.krstic 11/30/2016 4:03:27 PM
    Belgrade, Pristina agreed on the final steps for the implementation of the Justice Agreement, reached within the Dialogue on 9 February 2015.

    "The European External Action Service will receive confirmation by both parties on 9 December 2016 that they fulfilled the implementation obligations regarding Judges, Prosecutors and Judicial Staff to be integrated into the Kosovo Judiciary. Their integration will become fully effective on 10 January 2017.

    "The European Union commends the parties for this achievement and urges them to accelerate progress on all other outstanding Agreements implementation work, in particular the Association/Community of Serb majority municipalities and on Energy," the European External Action Servic wrote in a statement.

    Council of the Montenegro's national public broadcaster sacked has sacked Director General Rade Vojvodic on Wednesday after the sudden cancellation of the competition for a new public TV chief.

    Reportedly, Vojvodic scrapped the competition for a new chief of the state TV after the candidate supported by the ruling party had no appropriate qualification for the job. The management wanted to change the competition terms.
    Top stories from the Balkans this Thursday:
    • Swing voters and habitual abstainers together make up a whopping 30 to 40 per cent of Macedonia’s electorate, so whoever can mobilize them will win in December, experts believe. Read more.
    • Sharp falls in Croatian imports from Russia worry few experts in Zagreb - who in any case blame falling energy prices and changes in currency exchange rates as well as tit-for-tat sanctions and political feuds. Read more.
    • Experts and journalists say the decision of another Kosovo court to hold a high-profile corruption trial behind closed doors will further damage people's trust in the judiciary. Read more.
    The youth forum of Albania’s main opposition Democratic Party left some fake cannabis plant on the front doorstep of the government building on Wednesday as a message to Prime Minister Edi Rama, intended to signal what they see as the government’s failures in the war against drugs.

    The protest of the youth PD's forum. Photo: Facebook 
    Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa has urged for MPs to unite and ratify the border demarcation agreement with Montenegro this year as, according to him, visa liberalization for Kosovo citizens will not happen next year.

    "We have been told that if we enter the next year without completed this matter, liberalization will be a big problem. I appeal to MPs and Parliament to unite and finish this remaining criterion” Mustafa said while addressing the cabinet about the first meeting of the Stablisation and Association Council between the EU and Kosovo, which was held in Brussels on November 25.

    Isa Mustafa, Kosovo Prime Minister | Photo: BIRN    

    Albania’s environment ministry, in collaboration with the OSCE, introduced the Inter-Institutional Working Group in Tirana on Thursday that is tasked with amending the Criminal Code on environmental cases. 

    The aim is to pass the amends in parliament this year as part of a package of measures that will classify environmental wrongdoings as a crime.
    A group of Bosnian intellectuals have penned an open letter warning that Bosnia and Herzegovina is in danger of becoming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's pashadom.
    Their letter follows the removal of an award from teacher Ali Lafcioglu, a teacher at one of the Bosna Sema schools that have come under fire recently over allegations that they are linked to the Turkish cleric Fetullah Gulen, whom Erdogan calls a terrorist and blames for masterminding the failed coup in Turkey this summer.
    The Bosna Sema institution insists it has no connection to the coup or any kind of terrorism.
    The EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, deemed that the investigation into the death of Vetevendosje activist Astrit Dehari and the autopsy that followed were carried out correctly, in a professional and diligent manner, in line with the European practices and with all meaningful lines of enquiry being pursued. 

    “The three relevant agencies involved continue to fulfill their respective obligation as would be expected. There are always lessons to be learned from incidents like this and the critical element to improvement is the implementation of these lessons,” EULEX said in a statement released on Wednesday. 

    However, according to EULEX, the events surrounding Dehari’s death should serve as a reminder that, although the Kosovo Correctional Service is striving for improvements, much more is needed to prevent such incidents in the future.

    Protesters in Pristina demanding justice for AstritDehari | Photo: BIRN    

    Kosovo President Hashim Thaci called for an investigation into an alleged “flagrant violation of the constitution” following an appeal from an Israeli man after encountering openly anti-Semitic and Nazi publications for sale on the main avenue of the capital city, Pristina.

    Ido Daniel, an expert on the fight against anti-Semitism and racism, was in Pristina to attend a conference and noticed that many stands and bookstores along the city’s main boulevard were selling anti-Semitic books translated into Albanian. 

    President Thaci responded via letter to Daniel’s appeal, saying that although he believes the incident is a rarity, “I can assure you that I directed authorities to immediately investigate this incident and take all necessary steps to prevent the spread of hatred”.

    Hashim Thaci, the President of Kosovo | Photo: BIRN     

    The Bulgarian parliament gave a green light to the law on the state budget for 2017 at a second hearing on Thursday, which gives priority to spending on education, healthcare and security.
    However, in the last moment, MPs withdrew from their commitment to increase the budget for the Bulgarian academic sector. 

    The draft budget foresaw an additional subsidy of 10 million leva for the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and 500 000 leva for the Saint Kliment Ohridski Sofia University. 

    The representatives of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, or BSP, left the plenary as a protest to the decision and promised to bring the budget before the Constitutional Court.

    Bulgarian Parliament building in Sofia. Photo: Todor Bozhinov 

    Two Bulgarian citizens have been detained on charges of smuggling refugees after they were caught driving 19 foreign citizens in their vehicles near the west Bulgarian town of Dragoman, close to the border with Serbia, on November 24, the Bulgarian interior ministry announced on Thursday.

    Two other men, with Bulgarian and Macedonian citizenship, were also charged over the case, but have been released on bail, the ministry explained.
    Bosnia's Constitutional Court has annulled the results of the referendum held in the mostly Serb-led entity Republika Srpska on September 25.
    The ruling was made on the basis that the decision to hold the referendum, made on July 15, was already found to be unconstitutional by the same court.
    The referendum asked the citizens of Republika Srpska whether they agreed with RS holding its public holiday on January 9, which the Constitutional Court has said excludes non-Serbs since it is linked to a religious feast in the calendar of the Orthodox church.
    Top stories from the Balkans this Friday:
    • A German Foreign Office official source told BIRN that Berlin supports the European Commission's recommendation that Albania can move towards accession talks once key judicial reforms are in place. Read more.
    • Campaign promises of drastic rises in pay for Macedonia's impoverished workers are far-fetched without a sharp economic upturn, experts warn. Read more.
    • A top adviser to Croatia’s former president says Zagreb has a right to pursue its own foreign policy goals - but it should learn lessons from its clumsy attempt to get involved in the conflict in Ukraine. Read more.
    Greek MEPs and representatives from the Greek parliament are expected to join a conference in the Albanian capital, Tirana, on Friday afternoon that will centre on claims that lands belonging to minorities in the country were forcefully taken from them by the government

    The conference has been organised by the Union for Human Rights Party, PBDNJ, the main Greek minority party in Albania.

    The relationship between the two neighboring countries has intensified in recent months, sharpened by a government plan to build new properties in the southern coastal town of Himara - also home of some Greek minority - which has many locals fearing that they will be forced to leave their houses to make room for the construction project.

    Citizens of Himara protesting about their land. Photo: Facebook 
    Boyko Borissov, Bulgaria’s outgoing prime minister and leader of the country’s largest party, GERB, returned the mandate given to him by President Rosen Plevneliev to form a new government within the current National Assembly.

    Borissov’s government resigned on November 14 following a painful defeat of GERB’s candidate Tsetska Tsacheva by her opponent Rumen Radev, nominated by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, or BSP.

    According to Bulgaria’s constitution, the President has to hand the mandate to the two main parties and to a third, smaller one, in case of their unwillingness to try to form a government.

    Bulgaria’s second largest party, BSP, has already declared that it would refuse the mandate. 

    The only party that has demonstrated a will to try and set up a government is the nationalistic Patriotic Front coalition, but its chances are limited since GERB withdrew its support for it.

    Boyko Borissov. Photo: Bulgarian government press service 

    Bulgarian judge Rumyana Chenalova, who gained notoriety for her involvement in the so-called “Yaneva-gate” case, in which leaked recordings revealed high-level corruption in the Bulgarian government and judiciary, has been taken to court by Bulgaria’s special anti-corruption prosecution on Friday. 

    Chenalova has been accused of abuse of office and document crime.

    A series of conversations, revealed by Bulgarian investigative website over the past year, that took place between Chenalova, the former head of the Sofia City Court, Vladimira Yaneva, and a lawyer, identified as Momchil Mondeshki, have sparked controversy and raised eyebrows in Brussels about abuse of power and clientelism in Bulgarian politics and judiciary.
    Ahead of the start of the closing arguments from the prosecution in Ratko Mladic’s trial on Monday, the former Bosnian Serb military chief does not have “high hopes” of acquittal, AFP news agency has reported.

    “He thinks that if they were to judge him according to the facts, he would be acquitted. But if it's a political trial he will be convicted,” Mladic’s lawyer Branko Lukic told AFP.

    Mladic is on trial for genocide in Srebrenica, the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, which allegedly reached the scale of genocide in several other municipalities, terrorising the population of Sarajevo and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.
    Ratko Mladic. Photo: Beta.
    Former Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, who is now an MP for the opposition Democratic Party, accused EURALIUS rule-of-law mission in Albania and the country’s current premier, Edi Rama, or falsifying some parts of the Law on Reassessment of Judges and Prosecutors, known as the “vetting law”, through its translation into English.

    He pointed his blame directly at the head of the EU delegation to Romania, Romana Vlahutin, for not speaking out over the issue and siding with Rama when it comes to the country politics. 
    Former PM Sali Berisha. Foto: Facebook  

    The EU delegation to Albania emphasized on Friday that the EURALIUS rule-of-law mission in Albania is not responsible for mistakes that the opposition claims are contained in the English version of the country’s so-called “vetting law” that was sent to the Venice Commission for consultation.

    "Albanian institutions are responsible for official communication with the third parties and it is in their responsibility to secure official transmission of legal documents," the statement reads. 

    The implementation of the much-debated law, which is designed to cleanse the justice system of corruption and political influence, was stalled by Albania’s Constitutional Court in October after the opposition Democratic Party lodged a complaint claiming it was biased against judged and prosecutors.
    The coordinator of Kosovo Conditional Release Panel, Bedri Duraku was physically attacked on Thursday afternoon by four people while he was leaving his office in Pristina.

    The Kosovo Judicial Council has strongly condemned the assault, considering it an attack against the judicial system.

    “It is regrettable how Kosovo institutions are attacked, and in particular officials who perform their job with honour and responsibility," the statement from the Kosovo Judicial Council reads. 

    It also asks for relevant institutions to take preventive legal measures that will ensure the protection of officials in the judicial system, so that they can continue their work, which is set out in national legislation and international conventions.

    Photo illustration  

    Serbian Finance Minister Dusan Vujovic said on Friday that the regular presidential elections in 2017, and possible early parliamentary elections, will not increase the planned budget expenditures, Belgrade-based Beta news agency reported.

    “In the budget for next year we already planned costs for the presidential elections. The only question is whether there will be extra cost if there is a second round of voting, but it will not disrupt the planned expenditures,” Vujovic said.
    Two unions of Albanian judges launched a complaint to Albania’s Constitutional Court on Friday against the law on the status of judges and prosecutors, included in the country’s much-awaited judicial reform package, while claiming it creates chaos in the judicial system and violates human rights.

    This is the second law under the reform package that has been raised with the Constitutional Court, after a complaint was made regarding the law on vetting judges and prosecutors.
    The Bosnian justice ministry said on Friday that it will request the extradition of former fighter Nikola Brcic, who was arrested in Serbia on suspicion that he committed crimes against humanity in the Foca area of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war in 1992.

    Brcic has been linked to wartime crimes in the village of Miljevina, near Foca, where Bosniak women were detained and raped.

    He has been placed in extradition custody by the Higher Court in Belgrade for up to two months on the grounds that he might abscond.
    Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations is visiting Belgrade on Monday, 5 December. Hahn will meet Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, as well as students and representatives of academic community.

    "Serbia belongs to the EU family and is making remarkable progress towards its strategic goal of EU membership. EU is Serbia's top partner in trade, investment and financial support in all sectors.

    "The EU delivers for the benefit of Serbian citizens in education, business, rule of law, public administration, roads, bridges, flood defences. I work closely with Serbia – we are stronger together as partners and friends in addressing migration, unemployment, security challenges, and preserving peace and stability in the region," Hahn said ahead of his visit.
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